Unlike Zubiri, the DoJ is in a better position to investigate the UST hazing incident because it has the personnel with the requisite competence, expertise and experience in conducting criminal investigations. Since criminal investigations may lead to the prosecution of certain individuals, constitutional rights must be safeguarded. Thus, criminal investigations are better left to investigators who are lawyers. Since Zubiri is not a lawyer, and considering that he has no training in criminal investigation, it is doubtful if Zubiri understands or appreciates the concept of constitutional rights. That doubt necessarily arises because Zubiri was very angry when the witnesses invoked their constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Besides, since when was it illegal for a witness to invoke a constitutional right? Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution explicitly provides that the rights of persons who appear or who are affected by legislative inquiries shall be respected.
On another point—if Zubiri’s committee investigation is really a Senate inquiry in aid of legislation, there seems to be no plausible reason for Zubiri to appear on national television to denounce the witnesses who merely invoked their constitutional rights. Searching for information that may be useful for legislation is one thing; appearing on national television to denounce persons who refuse to reveal information in a legislative inquiry is another.
Assuming that Zubiri really wants to obtain information which the Senate can put to good use in the enactment of new legislation to address the hazing problem, or to amend the existing anti-hazing law, the prudent thing for Zubiri to do is to wait for the results of the investigation being conducted by the DoJ, and from there, act accordingly. That way, the information derived by the Senate from the DoJ will have the credibility and the reliability needed for crafting proper legislation, and none of the personality politics that often distort the truth.
Right now, if there is any entity that is sorely lacking in credibility and reliability, it must be Zubiri—the same senator who once resigned from the Senate to pre-empt the Senate Electoral Tribunal unfavorable decision and who said that he relinquished power “to save the country from being divided” because the accusations of election fraud made against him were “unfounded.”
To be worthy of its label, an “inquiry in aid of legislation” should be concerned more with how the problem of hazing can be properly and adequately addressed by new legislation, and not with who are actually guilty of the hazing. Zubiri’s conduct during the inquiry has almost none of the characteristics of the former and all of the trappings of the latter.
There is another area of concern.
A legislative inquiry should not be a forum for judgment. That is a concern of the courts of law. Although the Senate is not a court of law, that does not mean a legislative inquiry conducted by the Senate need not be impartial. For remedial legislation to be truly curative of a nationwide malady, its foundations should be established on an impartial legislative inquiry.
The news media reported that Zubiri is a classmate and a good friend of the father of the hazing victim. If that is so, many will suspect that Zubiri may have already made up his mind that the witnesses are guilty. That may also mean that the ongoing Senate inquiry stage-managed by Zubiri is not out for information, but for a conviction. In the interest of impartiality, therefore, Zubiri ought to inhibit himself from participating any further in the legislative inquiry.
Even assuming that Zubiri’s close ties with the Castillo patriarch are not close enough to unduly influence his deportment during the legislative inquiry, there will always be the perception, correct or otherwise, from the witnesses summoned to the inquiry, that Zubiri is no longer an impartial “investigator.” In that situation, the witnesses will have more reason not to cooperate in the inquiry as long as Zubiri is there.
When a legislative inquiry no longer serves its avowed purpose, and has in fact become nothing more than a one-sided inquisition seeking private vengeance instead of legislative reform, that is not the legislative inquiry which the Constitution had in mind. In such an event, the inquiry must perforce end.
The historical record reveals that legislative inquiries have not done much to solve social ills and problems.
Take for instance the recent Senate “investigation” of the smuggling of P6 billion worth of narcotics at the Bureau of Customs. It led to nowhere after the public got bored of the televised quarrel between Senator Richard Gordon and the confrontational Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. What ultimately happened to that large scale illegal drug haul remains a mystery today.
Numerous other so-called legislative “investigations,” either in the House or in the Senate, have suffered the same fate. That’s because when the publicity value of the issue is gone, the “investigation” dies down as well. Thus, Zubiri’s enthusiasm in the legislative inquiry on the UST hazing incident will also wane when other issues arise, particularly those which have publicity value. In the end, politicians will always be politicians.
All is not lost, however, for the Castillo family.
The public outrage at what happened to the late Horacio Castillo III is enough to prompt the DoJ to speed up its own investigation into this hazing nightmare, with a view towards the filing of appropriate criminal charges against everyone liable under the law for the death of Castillo III.
There are also enough level-headed legislators who seem determined to craft appropriate amendments to the existing anti-hazing law, once the DoJ arrives at its findings and makes its recommendations.
The criminal prosecution of the actual wrongdoers must commence at the soonest possible time, and a tougher law against hazing must be enacted soon thereafter. Like the government campaign against dangerous drugs, there should be an end to the horror that is hazing.